‘It’s city wide:’ Savannah working to collect more than $2 million in outstanding code compliance fines
SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Thousands of blighted property owners in the City of Savannah owe nearly $2.2 million.
That’s up more than half a million since WTOC Investigates reported on the issue last year.
The City of Savannah is known for its historic buildings and beautiful architecture, but there are some properties that leave an eyesore.
That’s where code compliance comes in.
“I truly believe it’s city wide. You can go from the westside to the eastside. Then, when you go south, you see properties surrounding blighted properties that are in good condition,” said Cynthia Knight, director of code compliance for the City of Savannah.
The issue of properties with a history of blight goes back for years and the price tag is to the tune of millions of dollars.
WTOC obtained a list of outstanding fees from the city. 4,500 invoices that total $2.2 million.
Last year it was at $1.6 million.
Some of the biggest fines ranged from $18,000 to $26,000 for just one property.
“Just a slow process on collecting those fees. Many of the property owners are deceased...heirs are unknown or there are multiple heirs and there are even cases of citizens who are unable to pay the fees because of limited income,” Knight said.
Some of the invoices haven’t been paid on for eight years. That forces the city to send out lien notices before they have to take people to court.
Knight said, “seeing it going up in regard to the liens and it doesn’t pride me to say this, but that’s often when we hear from property owners when they get the lien notice.”
Fines are issued after the city pays contractors to clean up a property and after several attempts to get the owner to correct the violation.
Some words of advice – make sure you’re looking into a property you plan to invest in.
“The fee follows the property and if someone acquires a property where we a have a fee assessed to it, they pretty much inherit it if they haven’t done the background check to identify what fees are owed.”
Savannah’s code compliance director said she knows living near an unkempt property can be frustrating.
“We understand and know what needs to be done and we take action. Often times, when it seems like nothing is being done there’s a whole history behind that code case.”
The city’s code compliance director also told WTOC they are working on partnering with an agency to educate residents on making a will for their property.
You can submit a request to code compliance for assistance here.
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